Five ways to build travel-proof relationships

Is frequent business travel taking its toll on life at home? Here’s how to stay close even when you're far, far away.

By Louise Wedgwood, November 29 2019
Five ways to build travel-proof relationships

For many of us, the rewards of travelling for business trump the negatives – but those negatives can still affect both you and your family.

According to research released earlier this month by travel management company CWT, business travellers’ biggest worry is that their travel erodes the quality of their relationships and home life. 

However, facing up to the risks of time apart gives you plenty of scope to do something about them – even from the other side of the globe.

Communicate early and often

It’s easy to underestimate the significance of a simple text. But to your partner or spouse, who is juggling work, home and/or parenting responsibilities while you’re flying to far-flung and exotic destinations, it matters. It says you were thinking of them and took time between meetings to connect, even if you only send an emoji. When time allows, phone or video calls (through FaceTime, WhatsApp or Google Duo, for example) create richer conversation opportunities.

Start sharing calendars so you can be interested and involved with events happening at home.
Start sharing calendars so you can be interested and involved with events happening at home.

Making contact every morning and before bed is a terrific start (with an eye to time zone differences – a text that sets the recipient’s phone buzzing on the bedside table at 4am isn’t likely to be lovingly received). But most importantly, text just because. You might assume your partner and children know you miss them, but it never hurts to explicitly remind them.

If you don’t already, start sharing calendars (try the Google or iPhone calendar, Time Tree or Cozi). Check before you call, so you can ask, "What's the news from the doctor's appointment?” or, “How was brunch with your parents?". 

If your schedules are too out of sync for a call, send an audio or video recording instead. For kids, record a favourite bed-time story in advance. They’ll be thrilled even if you’re not available to say good night.

With children, you can have even more fun sending goofy pictures and videos. Take turns to pull a funny face and send a photo, which the other person has to copy and send back. Or send short videos (less than 30 seconds) from interesting or quirky places. Maybe the airport departure lounge, an office lift, hotel rooftop, or city landmark. Challenge the kids to send their own to brighten your day.

Share the domestic load

Before you leave your partner to manage things alone, muck in and get as much done as you can. Make sure the laundry hamper is empty, the fridge is stocked and the floors are clean.

While you’re away, you can still keep the home fires burning from your hotel room. Pay bills that come in, organise for the lawn mowing person to come, order essential groceries online, book the babysitter for your next date night.

However busy you are on the road, stay engaged in what's happening at home.
However busy you are on the road, stay engaged in what's happening at home.

Plan your arrival home

You've just stepped off a hellish flight at the conclusion of a hectic trip, whilst your significant other has been juggling everything at home. You’re both hanging for a well-earned break. It’s tempting to compete for who is the most tired or stressed, but don’t – it invalidates both parties’ feelings. 

Get on the front foot and discuss in advance who gets to put their feet up first, so there's no resentment.

Maybe you negotiate two hours on the couch before you get back in the domestic trenches. Then, continue communicating openly about how you want to spend any time off. If you want to see friends or just chill at home, let your partner know (beforethey plan an elaborate date).

If you travel frequently, have a homecoming ritual to mark the transition. It can be as simple as a proper hug. Or catching up over a tea or wine, or taking a walk together.

Manage expectations

Sometimes it’s not your travel schedule that causes friction, but a mismatch between reality and expectations. 

If you promise to call at a certain time, for example, make sure you deliver: set an alarm if you have to. If your return flight isn't set in stone or you’re delayed, update your ETA as soon as you can.

To manage long-term expectations, involve your partner in your career plans. Whether it's moving to a new company or leading a special project, don't make the decision in a vacuum. Discuss the travel implications. Likewise, don't forget to ask how you can support their career – especially if it’s affected by your trips away.

Get creative when it comes to children and have some fun.
Get creative when it comes to children and have some fun.

Prioritise thoughtful gestures

Remember the cute things you did for your partner as a teenager? Tap into your inner romantic and hide notes around the house that will be discovered after you’ve left. You can put them in the fridge, on the bathroom mirror, in their laptop or on their windscreen.

If a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary coincides with your trip, be organised. Have a present wrapped and hidden in the house, or set to arrive on the day.

If your partner loves gifts, bring home something thoughtful to show they were on your mind. Perhaps pick up their favourite magazine or chocolate from the airport, and a colouring book for the kids.

When you are at home, make deposits into your "relationship bank". Every time you do something for the other person, share a hug, or have a real conversation, that's a deposit.

Being apart inevitably creates withdrawals. Making sure you have a healthy balance before spending time away can bring you even closer than you were.

Louise Wedgwood

Louise Wedgwood is a Brisbane-based 'science-savvy' health and lifestyle writer.


Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jan 2017

Total posts 62

Or simply just don't travel as much. Consider a career change or move in the organisation so you are home more often. None of the suggestions in the article are going to make up for absent parenting or be a substitute for a partner who is present.

Simply ridiculous and insensitive comment. This article is ideal for the average ET reader. One psychologist once described a travelers life as like parachuting back into the house, and everyone can't expect that the things were the same as they were before the trip. This takes work, and yes, it's hard on everyone at times.

I'm a father of 2, I love my kids dearly, however I run my own export focused company, so travel quite simply is required. Like so many others here, we work as hard as we can when we're home to just be there. I recently flew 14 hours from Dubai to be home Friday afternoon for a weekend occasion with the kids, before jumping back on a plane to Thailand Sunday night. Would I prefer to be home and support my family without being away, sure, but that's just not reality.

12 Dec 2018

Total posts 21

Agree with aussieflyer78. I do most of the suggestions mentioned in the article already, and it makes me feel somewhat less anxious that I am letting the home front down. I am lucky to have a very understanding partner who manages with little fuss, and who I try to make feel very special when we have time together. She also really appreciates the FF points I accumulate to take the edge off the cost of bi annual trips back to her home of the UK. So there is a win there for the household finances also if you look at it that way. And while no gift ever replaces a father figure, all 3 of my daughters love getting things that are unique from my trips and that they can share with friends and family that they wouldn't normally have had the chance to.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2014

Total posts 132

This article is awesome! Thank you so much for this thoughtful and positive piece of information and advice.

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